Perceptions of green space usage, abundance, and quality of green space were associated with better mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic among residents of Denver

Colleen E. Reid, Emma S. Rieves, Kate Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted both physical and mental health. This study aimed to understand whether exposure to green space buffered against stress and distress during the COVID-19 pandemic while taking into account significant stressors of the pandemic. Methods We leveraged a cross-sectional survey on green space exposure and mental health among residents of Denver, CO that ran from November 2019 through January 2021. We measured objective green space as the average NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) from aerial imagery within 300m and 500m of the participant's residence. Perceived green space was measured through Likert scores on five questions about vegetation near the home that captured perceived abundance, visibility, access, usage, and quality of green space. We used generalized linear models to assess the relationship between each green space exposure variable and perceived stress (PSS-4), depression (CES-D-10), or anxiety (MMPI-2) adjusted for sociodemographic and COVID-19 impact variables. Results We found significantly higher depression scores for all covid periods compared to the "before covid"period, and significantly higher anxiety scores during the "fall wave"compared to earlier periods. Adjusted for sociodemographic and pandemic stressors, we found that spending a lot of time in green space (usage) was significantly associated with lower anxiety and depression. We also observed significantly lower depression scores associated with NDVI in both buffers (objective abundance) and significantly lower anxiety scores with perceived abundance of green space. There was some evidence of lower anxiety scores for people reporting having high quality green spaces near the home (quality). We did not observe significant associations for any green space metric and perceived stress after adjustment for confounding variables. Conclusion Our work provides further evidence of mental health benefits associated with green space exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic even after adjustment for sociodemographic variables and significant pandemic-related stressors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0263779
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Reid et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Parks, Recreational

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Journal Article


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